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Archive for February, 2013

working out too much

Although it’s good to exercise regularly, working out too much could work against you. A new study found that older women (ages 60 to 72) who worked out two to four times a week burned more calories each day and found exercise more pleasurable than those who worked out more.

Past studies have found exercising vigorously almost every day causes some people to be less physically active overall compared to those who exercise less. Researchers suggest constant vigorous exercise sends messages to the brain that the body is overdoing it and needs rest, which may cause fatigue or lethargy. For example, vigorous exercisers may take the stairs less, be more inclined to drive instead of walk, or park close to the entrance of a store instead of traversing the parking lot.

Working out fewer days per week showed more benefit

In the study, researchers divided the women into three groups who jogged, walked, cycled and lifted weights. One group worked out twice a week, one group four times a week, and the third group six times a week.

Some interesting results emerged from the study. The group exercising twice a week showed the same gains in fitness as the groups who worked out more often. However, the group working out four days a week burned the most calories per day, an additional 225 calories outside of the exercise session.

Frequent exercisers burned out and burned fewer calories

What is more surprising is the group who worked out six times a week burned 200 fewer calories a day than before they began.

Apparently, the six-day-a-week group suffered burnout. They complained the exercise schedule took up too much of their time and made them feel pressured. As a result, they made lifestyle choices that were quicker but more sedentary, such as driving or taking the elevator instead of walking or taking the stairs.

The other two groups reported feeling more energized and capable. They started taking the stairs over the escalator, walking regularly for pleasure, and incorporating more activity into their lives in general.

In conclusion the group working out four days a week experienced the most benefits, but those working out only twice a week came pretty close.

Over exercising can do more harm than good

Of course, if you enjoy working out six days a week and it does not negatively affect you, then there is no need to work out less. Regular physical activity has been shown to lower the risk a long list of chronic diseases, including depression, heart disease, and diabetes.

However, overtraining can deplete hormones, depress immunity, lead to bone loss, increase the risk of injuries, slow healing, increase inflammation, and cause a general feeling of burn-out.

Overtraining causes your body to pump out extra cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that helps us cope with stress. High cortisol can cause bone loss and muscle breakdown, create belly fat, increase sugar cravings, and lead to insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that causes high blood sugar.

Some people who overtrain suffer from low cortisol, which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, low blood sugar (with dizziness, light-headedness, and irritability), muscle weakness, difficulty recovering from workouts, and poor immune strength.

Symptoms of overtraining

Symptoms of overtraining include:

  • Persistent tiredness
  • Worsening strength and stamina
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Slow recovery
  • Aching joints or limbs
  • Injuries
  • Frequent illness

Sufficient recovery between exercise sessions and exercising at an appropriate intensity will get you fitter faster without compromising your health.

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Anemia: Deal breaker to better health

2 42 anemia is deal breaker

If you have iron-deficiency anemia, it will be difficult to impossible to heal from chronic health issues. Because it robs the cells of oxygen necessary for basic functions, anemia is a deal breaker when it comes to improving your health. Knowing how to identify and address your anemia are crucial first steps to any healing program.

What is iron-deficiency anemia

Although there are many forms of anemia, iron-deficiency is the leading cause of anemia in the United States and the most common nutritional deficiency. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a part of blood cells that carries oxygen. When iron is low, the body makes smaller red blood cells and fewer of them. As a result, the body does not get enough oxygen.

Why oxygen is important

This is a problem because all the body’s cells need a constant supply of oxygen to function. All cells have mitochondria, which are like little power plants. The mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), molecules that store and release energy, functioning like rechargeable batteries. This process is necessary to create new tissue, eliminate old tissue, convert food to energy, dispose of waste materials and toxins, and communicate with other cells. Healthy mitochondrial function and ATP production are vital to preventing and healing disease, and they require oxygen to work.

What causes iron-deficiency anemia?

A variety of factors can cause iron-deficiency. They include:

  • Not enough iron in the diet. Iron-rich foods include meat, eggs, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Chronic blood loss in the body from ulcers, heavy bleeding during menstruation, uterine fibroids, hemorrhoids, cancer, or regular aspirin use.
  • Pregnancy. The need for iron grows as the pregnant mother must supply iron for both herself and the growing fetus.
  • Inability to absorb iron. Iron-deficiency is common in undiagnosed celiac disease, which damages and inflames the small intestine so that it cannot absorb nutrients. Other food intolerances or poor digestive function can also result in poor absorption of iron.

Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia

The easiest way to determine whether you have iron-deficiency anemia is through a functional blood chemistry panel, which looks at a complete blood count and iron markers.

You can also evaluate your symptoms to determine whether you may be at risk for iron-deficiency anemia. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling weak and tiring easily
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling grumpy or cranky
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin, nail beds, and gums
  • Short of breath
  • Trouble concentrating

Managing iron-deficiency anemia

One should address the root cause of iron-deficiency anemia. For instance, a gluten-free diet and repairing gut damage resolves anemia in many people. If you need an iron supplement, it’s important to choose one that is well absorbed by the body and will not cause an upset stomach or constipation. Ask my office for advice.

Avoid iron toxicity

There are many different forms of anemia besides iron-deficiency anemia, such as anemia caused by a B12 deficiency, inflammation, or an autoimmune disease. Supplementing with iron when you don’t need it may increase the risk of excess levels of iron in your body. Although the body needs iron to function, in excess it is toxic.

Ask my office for advice on anemia.

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brain injury protection

Brain injury prevention goes beyond whether you wear a helmet. Two people with the same injury can have two wildly different reactions—one mild, one debilitating—based on the health of their brain prior to injury.

Although we can’t necessarily control whether a brain injury happens from a fall, a car accident, or a blow to the head, we can affect how well our brain copes with the trauma. More than 1.7 million people sustain a brain injury each year, and more than 5 million people are disabled due to brain injuries.

Your brain health determines your response to a brain injury

The brain is an extremely malleable organ that is constantly being shaped by our environment, diet, experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Because it is such a sensitive organ, brain health can easily suffer.

What makes the brain most vulnerable to increased devastation from a brain injury is inflammation. Inflammation in a knee, ankle, or elsewhere in the body typically results in pain. An inflamed brain, however, does not hurt. Instead, a common symptom of brain inflammation is brain fog. People with brain fog complain their thinking feels slow and disconnected, as if they are in a fog. This is because the inflammation in the brain slows communication between neurons.

Other symptoms of brain inflammation can include memory loss, depression, anxiety, and neurological disorders.

What causes brain inflammation

The factors that cause brain inflammation are often the same factors that cause inflammation elsewhere in the body, and stem primarily from poor diet and lifestyle choices. One of the more common causes of brain inflammation is inflammation in the gut. If you have any digestive disorders—stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, gas, bloating, multiple food sensitivities—you may be at risk of brain inflammation.

The effects of the brain injury will be much worse and more difficult to heal if inflammation is already a problem.

Common factors that inflame the brain include:

  • Food intolerances, particularly to gluten. The brain has been found to be the tissue most often affected by a gluten sensitivity.
  • A diet high in sugar
  • Blood sugar imbalances (low blood sugar, high blood sugar, or diabetes)
  • Leaky gut (a damaged gut wall that allows undigested food, bacteria, and other pathogens into the bloodstream)
  • Unmanaged autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
  • Chronic inflammation elsewhere in the body
  • Hormonal imbalances: Hormones play an important role in brain health. For instance, an estrogen deficiency in a woman can cause brain inflammation and make the brain significantly more vulnerable to damage from a brain injury. Also, progesterone has been shown to be very therapeutic after a brain injury.
  • Poor blood flow and oxygenation. The brain cannot function well without a good flow of blood, which carries oxygen. Factors that can hamper this include anemia, smoking, poor circulation, blood sugar imbalances, chronic stress, and high or low blood pressure.

Symptoms that indicate you may be at risk for more devastation from a brain injury

By knowing what symptoms to look for, you can take action to improve your chance of a good outcome in the event of a brain injury.

Certain symptoms show your brain may be inflamed or in poor health. As mentioned earlier, digestive symptoms or hormonal imbalances can inflame the brain. Multiple chemical sensitivities indicate you have lost a tolerance to environmental compounds and your antioxidant status is low, making your brain more vulnerable. Chronic depression has been linked to chronic gut and brain inflammation. Anxiety or mood disorders signal imbalances in brain health. Memory loss and poor cognition also signal brain health is deteriorating.

Supporting brain health

The factors that support brain health are the same factors that support your body’s health. They include a whole foods diet rich in antioxidants and omega 3 fats, sufficient vitamin D, regular physical activity and enough sleep, healthy social activity, and avoiding foods and lifestyle factors that increase stress and inflammation.

Ask my office for additional strategies to support your brain health or to improve recovery after a brain injury.

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ImageChronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is far more than just being tired.  It is a frustrating, complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that may worsen with physical or mental activity and does not improve with rest.  Those affected with CFS can get so run down that it interferes with the ability to function in day to day activities with some becoming severely disabled and even bedridden.  In addition to extreme fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome encompasses a wide range of other symptoms, including but not limited to, headaches, flu like symptoms and chronic pain.

If you suffer from CFS, Oriental medicine can help relieve many of your symptoms.  Exceptional for relieving aches and pains, acupuncture and Oriental medicine treatments can help you avoid getting sick as often, and recover more quickly, as well as improve your vitality and stamina.

Research on Chronic Fatigue and Acupuncture

A study in China evaluated cupping as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome.  All of the study patients complained of fatigue and some had additional problems with headaches, insomnia, muscle-joint pains, backaches and pains, poor memory, gastrointestinal disturbances, and bitter taste in their mouth, among others.  Patients ranging in age from 28-54 received sliding cupping treatments twice a week for a total of 12 treatments.   The results showed there was vast improvement in fatigue levels, insomnia, poor memory, spontaneous sweating, sore throat, profuse dreams, poor intake, abdominal distention, diarrhea, and alternating constipation and diarrhea. 

In another study conducted at the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of TCM in Guangzhou, China, subjects with chronic fatigue syndrome were evenly divided by random selection into an acupuncture group and a control group. The observation group was treated with acupuncture and the control group was treated with an injection.  Participants completed a fatigue scale and results showed that people who received acupuncture reported significantly more relief from their symptoms.  A similar study conducted in Hong Kong gave half of the group conventional needle acupuncture and half (the control group) sham acupuncture. Again, using a fatigue scale, improvements in physical and mental fatigue were significantly bigger in the acupuncture group and no adverse events occurred. 

Most significantly, 28 papers were statistically reviewed through a meta analysis in order to assess the success of acupuncture as a therapy for CFS. The results showed that treatment groups receiving acupuncture for chronic fatigue syndrome had superior results when compared with control groups. Rightly, they concluded that acupuncture therapy is effective for chronic fatigue syndrome and that it does merit additional research.

If you are struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome contact our office today to see how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be incorporated into your treatment plan!

By: Jennifer Dubowsky, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

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constipation causes

It doesn’t just make newborns and Grandpa grumpy—constipation is a serious digestive issue that can significantly impact your health. Conventional medicine defines constipation as having hard stools with a bowel movement fewer than three times per week, and severe constipation as less than once a week. In functional medicine, however, good elimination is having one to three healthy bowel movements per day. Although harsh laxatives can override constipation, it’s best to address the underlying causes for lasting success.

Why constipation is hard on the body

Regular bowel movements are the body’s way of eliminating toxins, metabolized hormones, and waste from your body. When you’re constipated these compounds sit idle in the intestines and are absorbed back into the bloodstream for circulation. This can sap energy, make you more cranky, hinder the ability of your body to function optimally, and increase health risks such as for heart disease.

Fecal matter sitting immobile in the digestive tract promotes an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeast. This creates inflammation in the gut and other digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating, pain, allergies, and food sensitivities. Yeast overgrowths also promote itchy skin, vaginal yeast infections, fungal infections, and more.

Constipation is also uncomfortable, if not painful. It makes people feel heavy and bloated, sometimes causing abdominal cramps, hemorrhoids, or anal fissures.

Nutrition and constipation

For some people, the cause of constipation is pretty straightforward and easy to address. They simply need to eat a whole foods diet rich in fiber and stay sufficiently hydrated. For people used to eating a diet heavy in fast foods, consuming plenty of vegetables and fruit can significantly improve bowel function.

Nutritional support, such as with essential fatty acids, vitamin D, and quality vitamins and minerals, can also promote healthy bowel function.

Probiotics are another powerful tool. Many people suffer from an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and not enough beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can contribute to constipation. Often boosting beneficial bacteria with probiotics or fermented and cultured foods can support healthy elimination.

Food intolerances, leaky gut, and constipation

Sometimes the root cause of constipation requires more sleuthing. The best place to start is with gut health and hidden sources of inflammation, as constipation can be a symptom of inflammation in the gut. Finding an undiagnosed food intolerance, such as to gluten, dairy, corn, or egg, is all it takes to relieve constipation for some. For instance, many people have found eliminating gluten from their diet significantly improves gut health and bowel function. After removing inflammatory foods from your diet, you may also need to dampen gut inflammation and repair a leaky gut with the support of clinical nutrition.

Hypothyroidism and constipation

Constipation is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism, which slows down the body’s metabolism. Because conventional lab ranges to diagnose hypothyroidism are so broad, many people with low thyroid function are misdiagnosed. If you have thyroid symptoms, you should screen for hypothyroidism from a functional blood chemistry perspective, which includes evaluating for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism today and requires autoimmune management.

Brain health and constipation

The digestive tract has a nervous system much like the brain’s, and the gut and the brain are very intimately connected. Many people suffer from an imbalance in neurotransmitters, chemicals that relay messages between neurons. These imbalances can not only affect mood, memory, and well-being, but also digestive functions and can play a role in constipation. Whenever a gut issue becomes chronic, one should take steps to investigate and support brain health.

Ask my office for support and advice in dealing with constipation.

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